Famous late-night show host Stephen Colbert once quipped, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”. Is political comedy inherently a liberal act? It is an interesting but half-ignorant question. Primarily because most people consuming political comedy might never have actually heard a conservative comic.
Since the 1990s in the US, and over the past decade in India, stand-up comedy has had a predominantly liberal tone. But only if it ended here. Stand-ups around the world have now become the vanguard of liberalism, and consider it their moral duty to call out the excesses of the regimes — in a funny, sardonic way.
But 55-year old Fox News anchor and comedian Greg Gutfeld would like to disagree. Recently, he compared “cancel culture” to Covid-19, calling it “contagious, air-borne, with a low barrier for entry”. “For Libs (liberals), nothing is safe, including Hamilton – the musical they all adored. The critics now point out that (Alexander) Hamilton was a White guy who owned slaves, who knew?” he said.
“Well, we all did,” Gutfeld responds to his own rhetorical question with a straight face.
In the recent past, the comedian has made fun of liberals who, after propagating “defund the police”, clarified by asking not to take the words literally. He called Hilary Clinton “the gift that keeps giving because you can come up with analogies, metaphors and descriptions for her, just by the virtue of her never going away”. And Steve Bannon – the ideological godfather of Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign – as a “circus peanut, left out in the sun on a minivan dashboard.”
You might laugh at his joke, you might get annoyed by them sometimes, but Gutfeld is the conservative comic we need to preserve. There aren’t many of his kind, and we are at a time when we need someone to make fun of liberals who just keep pushing the ceiling. And there is perhaps no one better than Gutfeld, who is blowing up the Beltway liberal consensus of America.
Liberals should engage with Gutfeld not just because of his fine political insights, but also because if you can laugh with him, you might actually pass the ultimate liberal test.
The rise of Gutfeld
Greg Gutfeld started off as a magazine editor, and earned initial fame as the editor-in-chief of men’s health magazine, Stuff. Under him, the magazine increased its readership from 7.5 lakh to 10.2 lakh, creating a controversy month after month. But Gutfeld really gained popularity through his 3 am late night show called Red Eye, which ran from 2007 to 2015.
The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh described Red Eye as “an odd and often funny late-night show that is not exactly satire, and not exactly anything else, either.”
“Its sensibility is snarky and surreal, thanks to its host, Greg Gutfeld… who adopts a tone of half-sarcastic alarm, as if he can’t decide which is more annoying: the politician he is talking about, or the fact that he has to talk about politicians,” Sanneh wrote.
Gutfeld now runs his own late-night show, The Greg Gutfeld Show, which had an average of 2.86 million viewers in April, ahead of Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night shows.
Political realism, Gutfeld style
Gutfeld likes to identify as a libertarian, but what makes him unique is his inert need to constantly stray away from the popular norms and opinions, even when it comes to comedy. This is what gives Gutfeld’s comedy a refreshing sense of political realism.
Nothing highlights this better than Gutfeld’s take on Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Describing Trump, Gutfeld opened his show by remarking, “Well, the big orange meanie has struck again.” Then, reacting to liberal media referring to Trump’s decision as “obscene and madness”, Gutfeld said, “It’s a reaction we have come to expect from the children in the room, none of whom cared much about the pandemic because they were too busy smoking the crack pipe of impeachment…”
“But are you surprised by Trump’s actions? Are you like the media in which every day is the first day of Trump’s presidency? No, you get it. Trump’s strategy from day one is based on incentives… Nothing is off limits,” he said, chiding media anchors at CNN and MSNBC.
In contrast, Colbert reacted to the same news by saying, “He is defunding the World Health Organization during a global pandemic. Brilliant. It’s like when your house is engulfed in flames, first thing you do, burn down the fire department.”
Colbert is not wrong, neither is he any less funny, and probably a lot less angry than Gutfeld. But there is something that makes the latter unique, his comedy often gives insight into how Trump thinks, unlike most Left and liberal comics.
A funny-insightful Trump supporter
Greg Gutfeld is nowhere close to a liberal, and his shows are a window to his politics. For instance, while doing a segment on Trump’s infamous rally at Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, Gutfeld just gave a rundown of what the president spoke, without once commenting on the fact that no social distancing was practised at the rally.
At the end of the day, Gutfeld is a Trump supporter — which is not an issue — but it often makes him defend preposterous policies of President Trump.
On the recent race protests in the US following the killing of Black American George Floyd by a White policeman, Gutfeld said, “When you are having 10 million arrests and something like 15 million police encounters a year, you know ten of these incidents could very easily happen, make 20, twice a month… if we treat these the way we treat them now, without context, this country is not gonna survive.”
“We have to stop making this a Black versus White issue and make it a Black and White issue,” he added.
But there is still something unique that Gutfeld brings to the table. During an interview in 2018, Gutfeld tried to shed light on Trump’s thought process and his political method.
Speaking about his observations on Trump during the 2016 campaign, Gutfeld said he “started to look at him less as a political figure and more as a host of a comedy roast. And what he had done was he had basically redefined every context he was in.”
Views are personal.